Released Castleford Tigers ace snapped up by Championship club following successful trial: ‘I’m excited about the opportunity it presents’

Ben Olawumi
The Jungle, Castleford Tigers

A general view of The Jungle, home of Castleford Tigers, during a Super League game in 2023 - Alamy

Ex-Castleford Tigers young gun Ilikaya Mafi has earned a permanent deal with newly-promoted Championship outfit Doncaster following a successful trial.

Alongside four others, the 20-year-old’s departure from the Jungle was confirmed back in September, leaving Cas without making a senior competitive appearance having joined in December 2022 from fellow Super League side Hull FC, where he’d featured at academy and reserve level.

The Tigers held an option to extend Mafi‘s contract for the 2024 season in their favour, though evidently didn’t wish to do so, with the loose forward’s only run out coming in a pre-season friendly against Featherstone Rovers shortly after joining the club.

Instead, he now gets an opportunity with Doncaster, who this year return to the second tier for the first time since 2015 following last year’s promotion via the League 1 play-offs.

Released Castleford Tigers ace Ilikaya Mafi snapped up by Doncaster following successful trial: ‘I’m excited about the opportunity it presents’

Following their respective exits from Cas, Suaia Matagi and Alex Sutcliffe had already made the same move across the county to the Eco-Power Stadium this off-season, with Mafi now signing on the dotted line in South Yorkshire.

After appearances in their pre-season games so far, Doncaster confirmed Mafi’s permanent signing via their club website earlier today, with head coach Richard Horne saying: “Ilikaya has shown what he can do throughout pre-season.

“He’s still young and learning the game, and we are looking to help aid his development. We’re really pleased to bring him into the squad where he’s settled in with the lads really easily.”

Born in Oxford, forward Mafi played rugby union before getting into league and linking up with Hull, whom Doncaster went up against in a friendly last month.

The Dons’ new recruit added: “I’m thrilled to join Doncaster, I’m excited about the opportunity it presents.

“The familiar faces like Suaia Matagi and Alex Sutcliffe eased my transition into the club. I am also happy to have proved myself during trials and earning a contract with the coaches.”

After victory against Midlands Hurricanes last weekend in the same competition, Doncaster play their second and final 1895 Cup group stage game this coming Sunday – February 4 – with the visit of Sheffield Eagles.

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